CROSSROADS

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs
  • CROSSROADS
    “Cross Road Blues” is one of Delta Blues singer Robert Johnson‘s most famous songs.
    The lyrics plainly have the narrator attempting to hitch a ride from an intersection as
    darkness falls. But in close association with the mythic legend of Johnson’s short life and
    death, it has come to represent the tale of a blues man going to a metaphorical crossroads
    to meet the devil to sell his soul in exchange for becoming a famous blues player. While
    the idea of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil may be fascinating and evocative,
    many believe the song itself plainly describes the very real, harrowing situation feared by
    Johnson and other African Americans in the Deep South in the early 20th century.
    Historian Leon Litwack has suggested that the song refers to the common fear felt by
    blacks who were discovered out alone after dark. As late as 1930s in parts of the South,
    the well-known expression, “Nigger, don’t let the sun go down on you here,” was,
    according to Litwack, “understood and vigorously enforced.” In an era when lynching’s
    were still common, Johnson was likely singing about the desperation of finding his way
    home from an unfamiliar place as quickly as possible because, as the song says, “the sun
    goin’ down, boy/ dark gon’ catch me here.” This interpretation also makes sense of the
    closing line “You can run/ tell my friend poor Willie Brown/ that I’m standing at the
    crossroads” as Johnson’s appeal for help from a real-life fellow musician.”. Furthermore,
    it is said that Johnson requested that Willie Brown be informed in the event of his death.
    The legend of Johnson selling his soul to learn to play guitar is said to have taken place in
    Rosedale, Mississippi, at the intersection of Highway 8 and Highway 1. Another, less
    common, belief is that the crossroad is at the intersection of Highway 49 and Highway 61
    in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
    Because of the historical significance of “Cross Road Blues,” it was inducted into the
    Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
    I went down to the crossroad
    fell down on my knees
    I went down to the crossroad
    fell down on my knees
    Asked the lord above “Have mercy now
    save poor Bob if you please”
    Yeeooo, standin at the crossroad
    tried to flag a ride
    ooo ooo eee
    I tried to flag a ride
    Didn’t nobody seem to know me babe
    everybody pass me by
    Standin at the crossroad babe
    risin sun goin down
    Standin at the crossroad babe
    eee eee eee, risin sun goin down
    I believe to my soul now,
    Poor Bob is sinkin down
     You can run, you can run
    tell my friend Willie Brown
    You can run, you can run
    tell my friend Willie Brown
    (th)’at I got the croosroad blues this mornin Lord
    babe, I’m sinkin down
    And I went to the crossraod momma
    I looked east and west
    I went to the crossraod baby
    I looked east and west
    Lord, I didn’t have no sweet woman
    ooh-well babe, in my distress